Morelli vs. Allar
There are several reasons why Drew Allar is expected to outperform Anthony Morelli. Firstly, the Penn State offensive line has made significant improvements. Four out of the five starting offensive linemen from the previous season are returning, which is the same group that surrendered the fewest amount of sacks in the Franklin era. In contrast, Morelli’s inconsistency (career 56% completion percentage) becomes even more glaring when you consider the talented targets he had around him. Derrick Williams, Jordan Norwood, and Deon Butler were his primary receivers, along with Andrew Quarless. Additionally, in each of his seasons as the starting QB, he had a 1,300-yard rusher in Tony Hunt (2006) and Rodney Kinlaw (2007). However, he was unable to capitalize on these favorable conditions.
Poor decision-making was one of Morelli’s shortcomings. Throughout his career, he threw 31 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, and his 56% completion percentage was underwhelming. Additionally, the offensive schemes under Galen Hall had become predictable and stagnant, aside from the era of Michael Robinson.
On the other hand, there is reason to believe that Drew Allar will excel under the tutelage of Mike Yurcich. Yurcich is a renowned offensive coordinator who has a track record of developing quarterbacks, which bodes well for Allar’s future success. If the rushing attack of Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton improves upon last year’s production, that should take some pressure off of Allar. I’m not particularly concerned about the lack of a “big name” receiving corps. While they may be young and relatively inexperienced outside of Keandre Lambert-Smith and Kent State transfer Dante Cephas, it’s not like they’re lacking talent, they just haven’t had a chance to display that talent. I expect them to this year though.
Hackenberg vs. Allar
Christian Hackenberg’s performance at Penn State was undoubtedly impacted by various factors, one of which was the NCAA sanctions that had been imposed for a couple of seasons. These sanctions significantly reduced the talent level surrounding Hackenberg, particularly affecting the offensive line. Not only did the sanctions limit the quality of players being recruited, but they also diminished the depth of the offensive line. Consequently, the inability to rotate players as frequently weakened the line’s overall capabilities, leaving Hackenberg more vulnerable to pressure. Remarkably, despite facing immense pressure, Hackenberg displayed remarkable durability, being sacked 83 times in his two years under coach Franklin and offensive coordinator John Donovan, yet never missed a game.
While the sanctions played a part in Hackenberg’s struggles, another critical factor was his compatibility with James Franklin’s offensive system. Hackenberg, known as a strong-armed pocket passer, was not the mobile quarterback that thrives in Franklin’s system. This limited his ability to fully utilize his skill set and adapt to the offensive scheme. In contrast, his successor, Trace McSorley, may not have been significantly more physically talented than Hackenberg, but the system allowed him to maximize his abilities, incorporating both his passing skills and mobility.
Continuity was also lacking during Hackenberg’s time at Penn State. The constant changes in head coaches and offensive systems posed significant challenges for any player, let alone a young athlete in his late teens or early twenties. The frequent transitions likely disrupted Hackenberg’s development and hindered his ability to find consistency and build a strong rapport with his coaches and teammates.
Additionally, the running game at Penn State was not as talented during much of Hackenberg’s career. While he had the privilege of playing alongside a true freshman sensation, Saquon Barkley, in his final season, earlier in his career, Hackenberg had to rely on less dynamic running backs such as Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton, and Akeel Lynch. These players, while capable, did not possess the same explosive big-play potential as the likes of Allen and Singleton, which limited the overall offensive firepower and put more pressure on Hackenberg to carry the team.
Drew Allar is undoubtedly facing the daunting challenge of living up to the sky-high expectations already placed upon him. An intriguing aspect to consider is the perception of failure surrounding the careers of Morelli and Hackenberg, despite their notable accomplishments. Morelli departed the program with the fifth-highest passing yards in school history (now ranking 10th), while Hackenberg left as the most prolific passer in Penn State history (currently third). In fact, Hackenberg’s impressive numbers surpassed even Kerry Collins, widely regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks in Penn State’s history. Hackenberg accumulated 3,153 more yards, nine additional touchdowns, and just two more interceptions than Collins did during their respective tenures. Similarly, Morelli had a slightly higher completion percentage and 21 fewer interceptions than the celebrated Todd Blackledge. Yet, one is remembered fondly, while the other is met with disappointment.
It is crucial for Allar, as well as future quarterbacks, to recognize that while individual statistics hold value, the overall performance of the team under their leadership carries greater significance. The focus should extend beyond personal accolades, emphasizing the collective achievements and success of the entire squad. Perhaps the weight of exceedingly high expectations placed on previous 5-star quarterback recruits proved too burdensome, surpassing what they could realistically achieve. However, there is a strong sense that this will not be a concern for the latest 5-star talent to grace the field. The combination of Allar’s exceptional abilities and the understanding that team performance ultimately trumps individual accomplishments hints at a promising future for the young quarterback.